Rubens Peale with a Geranium, 1801
From a 5ml sample over 3 days.
For over a year I've been searching for a mint-based fragrance, because I don't identify with citrus, and I've sampled many. How ironic, that I finally happen upon this, the one that I like best of all, that certainly has mint, but only in a minor role. Geranium: alien to my northern nose, yet feels like it should have been a scent I've always known.
Not too much mint at the start, a cool, fresh, lemony-rosey floral that makes me think of Turkish Delight confectionery. And a second later is an authentic herbaceous smell. Like pressing your face into a green bouquet covered with cold raindrops. Or a garden, covered in dew, in the morning before everything starts again. Like someone else said here, it's uplifting, it is really uplifting. Then it's soapy, like really old fashioned soap. What an enigma: times an intensely real unmistakable mint and floral, times an absolutely synthetic, soapy rose. For something that is, at face value, simple and linear, it isn't, it plays with you, like a cool breeze blowing in suggestions of the garden flowers outside in through a bathroom window.
I thought this would be so so easy to explain, but in reality I can't find the right language to describe this lovely scent.
It's sillage is soft, it won't turn heads, but that's not important to me as this is an intensely personal experience which isn't about other people. There are other scents, other times, for that. Longevity is several hours, although all but the first of those hours are a faint, cool, fleeting floral breath, that briefly blows in the window, or the faintest reminder of the soap you washed with (take your choice) just when you think it was gone forever, never to return.
It opens minty, but not herbaceous mint leaves; it has the geranium leaves smell, which can be minty and rough, raw. The opening is accentuated by anise and the scent feels soapy and dusty, clean and dirty at the same time, like I imagine an old bar of soap would smell.
One hour in, the mint calms and a light sweetness reveals itself. To me, it smells like a freshly washed up skin at first which then goes into the fresh laundry territory.
The fragrance doesn't have much volume or weight after the first hour, it is light with minimal projection. The scent shifts from a masculine, cold and serious beginning to a unisex, clean and warm dry down. This is the best part but unfortunately I can barely smell it.
Instead of plunging deeply into a monofloral intensive opening blast à la Mona di Orio's Carnation, Géranium pour Monsieur pairs the note hat gives it its name - geranium - with a gorgeously refreshing mint note. This is not cheap chewing-gun mint but a natural high quality version, and it blends in perfectly with the lovely geranium impression.
The drydown starts with a rather synthetic sweetish note, but soon a reasonable cinnamon emerges that is quite convincing and not too sweet, and in the base I also get an ambroxan with some styrax. The performance is very good with moderate sillage, good projection and a longevity of eight hours on my skin.
Whilst the second half is more on the mediocre side, the opening is very nice, summery, fresh and well executed and well blended; the good quality prevents it from sliding into the profane mint range. On the strength of the top notes I am affording it a positive evaluation, but just by the skin of its teeth. In case one does not enjoy the opening notes it probably has little to offer overall. 3/5
Geranium Pour Monsieur, Editions Frederic Malle.
Now for some luxury! I picked up a sample of ‘Geranium Pour Monsieur,’ at Parfumarija in Dublin. This niche perfume is part of the Frederic Malle collection and created by perfumer Dominique Ropian.
I sprayed this sample on my arm at 2.30pm on a balmy Saturday then headed out for the day with my notebook. The fragrance opened with the most beautiful clean mint, floral ozone and sweet green accord. Underneath there is even more naturalness which enhances the first impressions. Because of it’s name 'Geranium,' I asked myself, “Will this smell the same as the buoyant geraniums in full bloom on my window sills? The Test maybe? Well at first impressions, this perfume doesn't smell like real geraniums. And I’m sceptically about it, but interested nonetheless. Would I even want to smell like my widow boxes really?
After 20 mins and a deep inhalation from my well fragranced arm, my eyes
water. The mint note is crisp and the perfume really grabs my attention. The peppermint note combines with the mint and I wonder if this perfume can peak any further in it's intensity. I’m left wondering,if that's as good as it gets?
The mints then soften and a white floral note is revealed, this is where the perfume really settles on the skin.
I did not experience this perfume as very diffusive to begin with, maybe a downside but the industry would describe this as ‘staying close to the skin.’ I agree and for me it is more intimate this way. At this point I’m recalling a handmade natural soap that I once smelled (I learned later this is interesting because the perfumer did spent time working in a soap factory and may have brought this soapy quality into the fragrance unconsciously). It is not an aldehydic soapiness however in the way Chanel no.5 is. It's natural and pleasant.
Next, I start to see a silver colour as I smell and then realise I’m sensing a metallic quality. What a surprise! I think initially of iris but the mint continues to diffuse throughout . And a rosey quality comes after 40 minutes, I instantly remember, ‘The Geranium’. It hits!
From my own work as a perfumer I know that rose and geranium complement each other incredibly well in perfume, so my nose always makes this link between rose and geranium. (Rhodinol with Geranium in this case). It takes a little while to reveal the Geranium heart but the window sill test worked. I remembered the Geraniums on my window sill and remember the silvery smooth quality when I touch the leaves. The leaves are soft and strong/flexible, the white flowers so silky soft and delicate.
How ingenius! The perfume did trigger this memory for me, maybe not so spontaneously but it does capture the feeling of physical touch of the petals and leaves through the use of scent.
I then get a shot of beautiful wood, the sandalwood which adds a sophistication which supports the natural element of the fragrance. The lightness moves into something more heavy. There aren’t really any words for this experience which has to be 'experienced'. My perfume teacher’s hobby horse was, “ There are no words for scent.....”
Not sure what that does for the integrity of my perfume review then! But in this case I agree, It should be experienced in order to be fully appreciated.
After 3 hours I feel that I’m right in the middle of the perfume enjoying all of the ingredients simultaneously. I’ve seen what it has to offer with a glimpse into the next chapter. This perfume is just like a movie, it’s moving and changing, developing in plot and revealing itself. Like a piece of music would do too.
So at the centre I also get anise and some spices too although I’m not sure what they are yet. The mint continues as a constant on my skin, still very strong up to 4 hours in. Interesting because it is technically a top note, a citrus or fruity top note would not be lingering around at this point.
The perfume sweetens as it settles into the benzoins and the musks. I wonder if I am smelling vanilla. Which I always link to labdanum and styrax resinoid in my olfactory memory. (These ingredients normally make up part of an amber accord btw). I realise the benzoin and musks were always there but I’m more aware of them much later as the others accords fade away.
By 11pm all I can get is a hint of musk and the persistent mint. Also my own natural ‘man-scent’ which smells nothing like a Frederic Malle smile emoticon This drydown lasts for about 12 hours. Then like a great perfume, it’s gone!
It leaves me wanting more and excited to spray it again the next day. Suitable for this changeable demi-season weather we are experiencing. Fresh and warm.
This perfumer has created a beautiful interpretation of a ‘Geranium’. It’s different, it’s a signature piece. It’s chic and true artistry!
You can purchase Geranium Pour Monsieur, Editions Frederic Malle for a very special occasion and very special man from www.fredericmalle.com for the tidy sum of €120 for 50ml.